Why are feedback loops difficult to teach and learn?

Posted: Oct 19 2020 by

Kim Kastens

In my last post, Tim Shipley and I wrote about the explanatory power of feedback loops, using examples from pandemics, climate change, escalation of hostilities, and explosions. In this post, I will share some thoughts about why feedback loop concepts can be so hard to teach and learn.


What do COVID-19, climate change, feuds and explosions have in common?

Posted: Jun 9 2020 by Kim Kastens & Tim Shipley
Topics: Systems Thinking

By March 14, 2020, there had been 47 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 across the U.S. Two days later: 68 deaths. Then 108, 150, 340, 590, 1050, 1707, 2509, 4079, 6053, 8501, 10989... The number of deaths doubled every few days. Such behavior feels alarming, out of control, inexplicable.

But, in fact, such exponential growth is characteristic of a class of phenomena well-known to science: a "reinforcing feedback loop." More

In which I experience the power of the right question

Posted: Apr 8 2017 by Kim Kastens

I am working on a project to research the kinds of questions that students ask when viewing geoscience data visualizations. Earth and Mind readers have seen a snippet of this work here. In justifying this work, we talk about how asking questions is an essential practice of science, how learning to ask questions is a necessary step towards becoming a curiosity-driven self-educator and life-long learner, and how seeking answers to self-generated questions is more powerfully engaging than seeking answers to questions provided by a book or teacher.

I really believe all this about the power of asking questions. I know all this, from both experience and theory. And yet earlier this year, I was astonished to observe the power that the right question had to compel and drive my own curiosity on a topic that had previously found distinctly un-interesting. More

Should we be talking with our Earth & Environmental Science students about voting?

Posted: Sep 12 2016 by Kim Kastens

The New York Times ran a piece recently about how voting turnout differs among undergraduates by field of study. In the last presidential election (2012), education majors had the highest voting rate at 55%. STEM majors had low turnout, with engineers having the lowest voting rate at 35%. Of course I wondered about students majoring in Earth and Environmental Sciences. I tracked down some further information about the study, and found that we aren't included as a category. We'll have to settle for data about physical science majors, who are in the bottom five of the 20 majors reported, with 40% voting turnout. More

Comments (1)

"What should be the temperature of the ocean?"

Posted: Aug 23 2016 by Kim Kastens

I've been thinking a lot recently about Practice 1 of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): Asking Questions (and Defining Problems). As far as I can tell, "Asking Questions" is the least researched of the NGSS practices, and also the least-discussed in terms of practioners' wisdom or pedagogical content knowledge. There seems to be a lot of literature on the questions that teachers ask students, but much less on question that students ask.

This line of thought has led me to scrutinize the questions that students ask as as they view visualizations of geoscience data. Here, by far, is my favorite student question to date:

"What should be the temperature of the ocean?"

I find this question interesting from several perspectives:


Comments (2)